Having earned his stripes in the Dutch drum & bass scene before breaking out internationally with a slew of heavy beats on imprints like Ram, Metalheadz, 31, Shogun, Critical, Samurai, Inneractive, and Dispatch, it wasn't until Nymfo linked up with Klute's Commercial Suicide imprint that the planets aligned and a long-awaited debut LP project was borne.
As expected, the final product spans a range of tempos and emotions and features a number of collaborations with fellow ne'er-do-wells like Black Sun Empire, June Miller, Cern, Presk and MC Fava. As final preparations are underway for the imminent album release, Kmag steps in for a spot of tea with none other than label boss Tom Withers aka Klute and the man behind the many masks, Bardo Camp aka Nymfo.
Nymfo and Commercial Suicide seem like such a perfect fit – how did you two originally link up and at what point did this develop into an album-length project?
Nymfo: Writing an album was in my thoughts already for a long time. Timing and finding the right label was also very important. I've known Tom Klute for years and also was a big fan of his label since day one. So after the Double Dutch EP last year an album was definitely the next step and for me the most logical label for that was Commercial Suicide.
Klute: I used to be secretly attracted to Bardo when he had curly blonde locks. He used to hang about with the Red Zone crew in Eindhoven and, to be honest, I thought he was a total dick, but through the years I realised that most Dutch people come off like this... apart from the guys from Black Sun Empire for some reason. Anyways, after I realised that the Dutch are all arseholes I saw Bardo in a different light. The first tunes I heard from him were all collabs with Icicle, who is also Dutch. Anyways, through a period of a year or two every time I'd bump into Bardo we'd discuss music more and more until we eventually released 'Matchstick'... still the worst selling release on Commercial Suicide.
Listening to the album straight through is a heavy experience as it all seems to gel and come together quite beautifully. The final result feels like a Nymfo DJ set, especially in the way the album transitions through a number of emotions, vibes, and tempos - was this a concept you discussed with each other early on?
Nymfo: Before I started working on the album, I wrote down a rough concept on my whiteboard and that helped me a lot while writing music. You're right in that I wanted to create a vibe for the album that I also create during my DJ sets and that means lots of different moods. 'Brain Stimulation' is a perfect intro track in my opinion for an album, but also for DJ sets. I think and hope when people hear that tune, they will pay attention and not skip through the album because I placed a lot of thought into the selection of tunes and where to put them on the album. The feedback so far is amazing and exactly the feedback I wanted; people listen to the whole album as intended and don't get bored!
In so many ways, the album seems to express the very best aspects of what Commercial Suicide has come to represent musically and artistically over the years, so much so that the album would most likely be a different beast if it was for another label.
Klute: For me the album does indeed fit the label's vision perfectly. The concept of making an "album" and not just a collection of singles seems such a cliché these days in d&b, most people claim it even though they have indeed made a collection of terrible singles... but yes, I'm extremely proud of it as an entire package.
Speaking of which, let's talk about the title, Characters - what's the story behind the name? I know collaborations play a huge part of this project, are these the 'characters' you speak of or is it more along the lines of the cover art for the LP - the different emotions or masks that you wear as an artist?
Nymfo: The tunes are related to my own characters and moods. For every mood, there is a different tune. I played Bipolar a lot last week for example, because it's sunny in Amsterdam and that tune has got that typical summer vibe. If you are having a fight with your sister, please play Battlefish - believe me, it helps! I hope the moods thing doesn't sound too emo now and you guys still think I'm a really cool person. The art is a perfect addition to the whole concept and music.
I understand Gijs Kast is responsible for the art? Was it a case of giving him a copy of the album and letting him run free or did you sit down and explain your conceptual framework to him?
Gijs Kast is a boss! I saw so many drawings by him in the past and I loved them all! I'm not a big fan of drum & bass sleeves with all the sci-fi stuff and space ships and so I like what he did for Characters because it's a bit dark, but also funny and very very original. Something like this makes you pay attention if you see it in a record shop or when you're torrenting it! Tom [Klute] saw a painting on Gijs Kast's website about lots of babies with different facial expressions so for one time I have to give credit to Tom about the wicked idea for my album sleeve!
Talk a bit about your other co-conspirators on this LP - we've got June Miller, Presk, Cern, MC Fava, and Black Sun Empire – I've heard that you prefer collaborating only when you're live, in-the-flesh, and in a shared studio. Whose studio? When? Where? What kind of drugs were consumed? Tea? Biscuits? Water? Beer? Anything goes in Amsterdam, right?
I definitely prefer doing collabs together in the studio instead of online. Online you never will get the same feeling you have when you are working together in the studio. For some reason and I still don't know what reason, lots of dnb producers visit Amsterdam and lots of them visit my studio for a collab! They also know I always have alcohol in my house and I've got amazing cooking skills so that's a good start for working on music. As for other substances, I'm scared of getting addicted so I don't do that but that doesn't mean there aren't any involved during a collab session. As for the BSE and June Miller collabs I had to actually leave the house and visit Utrecht, which is a good thing for me, otherwise I wouldn't wear anything different than my pyjamas.
Now that the album is a wrap, what's next?
Klute: The only plans I have is to keep going and to have fun doing it. It is stressful running a label and sometimes hard not to get caught up in scene politics. I'm not going to pretend to be "taking over" or "dominating" like some labels like to think, for me music is a passion and about sharing. It's communication of a higher source and shouldn't really be quantified by popularity contests like charts and the like. If you like what we're doing, come along for the ride.
Nymfo: I'm off to my percolator to make some coffee and then to take a shower! This week is going to be mellow, because it's finally super-hot outside and in Holland we have to enjoy our hot periods, because summers are horrible most of the time. Besides that I have a lot of gigs in the next few months including an album release party at Cable, London on June 2nd! Now that the album finally is done I'm super happy and relieved. And I'm looking forward to give a full release version to my mother soon!
Words: Chris Muniz
Characters hits the streets on June 4th. if you're in London this weekend be sure to head out to Cable for the official Nymfo album launch party on June 2nd featuring Calibre, Klute, Nymfo, Marcus Intalex and many more.
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